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The F1 visa is issued to international students attending a qualified U.S. college or university. International students are expected to maintain full-time student status while on F1 visa. They may, however, remain up to 60 days beyond the length of time it takes to complete the academic program. There are also options for extending their studies through employment opportunities both during and after completing their studies.
The student’s college will have a Designated School Official (DSO) that communicates updates to the student’s records to the government through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Although the DSO’s interests and the student’s interests will typically align, it is important to note that the DSO works for the school and not the student.
On-campus employment is permitted in limited circumstances – including working on the school’s premises (bookstore, cafeteria, etc.) or off-campus locations affiliated with the school and associated with the school’s established curriculum. Importantly, however, working for on-site commercial firms, such as a software company upgrading the school’s payroll software, which does not provide direct student services, would not be authorized. On-campus employment cannot exceed 20 hours/week while school is in session. Full-time on-campus employment is permitted when school is not in session or during the annual vacation period.
Generally, a student is authorized for 12 months of full-time practical training and can become eligible for another 12 months of practical training when she changes to a higher educational level. Students with a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree may also be eligible to extend their full-time work authorization for an additional 24 months. Further, the STEM student may become eligible for another 24-month extension upon completing a higher educational level.
To protect your ability to continue your studies in the U.S., and to seek employment in the U.S. while on F1 visa, you may want to consult with a skilled immigration attorney. Although your college has a DSO, the DSO is acting in the school’s interests, which may not necessarily align with your own. Our team can meet with you in a variety of locations and if you’re located far away from our local offices, you can always contact us by phone or email. The team at Sam Shihab & Associates is available to answer all your questions and discuss all the legal options regarding any immigration-related issues.